It's called the "Rhythm Band Kit for Little People" and it is a great way to give young children the feel of playing "in a band" while teaching them how to read notation for performance. The kids use triangles, sticks, drums, tambourines, bells and cymbals and play along with a CD to 15 different tunes in progressive order. They learn to read charts that look like this:
image from www.music-in-motion.com
The charts are VERY large (24"x18") so that they are easy for a classroom to see and for you to point along with a baton or yardstick.
You don't have to have music experience to use this. It comes with a very clear and almost scripted teacher's manual. The CD has tracks with just the piano accompaniment or with accompaniment and the sound of the rhythm instruments as well. Each song is also available on the CD at two different tempos. The titles of the tunes are really appropriate for the primary age group.
I wish I had the teacher's manual here so I could list for you all of the skills the kids can acquire through these charts and tracks. However, from what I remember they will learn:
- the concept of a measure
- beat/not a beat
- time signatures (several, at least 4/4, 3/4. Maybe 2/4 and 6/8)
- counting skills
I would love to use this with my own kids, but I don't have enough children. Ideally you would have six or more kids in your class to use it. I think you could make it work with four most of the time. This could be a great circle time activity for those who employ circle time in their environments.
After the rhythm band charts, my students would graduate to regular notation reading using BOOMWHACKERS and the Boom-A-Tunes Curriculum. Boomwhackers are fun in a large classroom environment but would not be usable at home with the support materials I've used in the past unless you have eight children or more (if the kids get really good and can double up, maybe four). I see now that they have some support materials that are advertised as being for as little as "one child" but I haven't personally used them so can't recommend them.
This all reminds me that, depending on brand, the colored handbells like the ones I painted to make our Montessori bells, are color coded to match the Boomwhackers. Therefore, all of the Boomwhacker materials could be used with those bells as well. Again, how much of these activities or the types of activities you do are limited by the number of children in your environment. A young child can only really keep track of one bell at a time. More experienced one's can do two. With only two children in our household we couldn't handle any melodies that used all eight-notes of the scale.
At home I think I would graduate instead to the Rhythm Band Concerto Flashcards.
On these, ALL the children play the black or white notes, the other colors can be assigned to particular rhythm instruments. This would allow you to graduate to regular notation while still using the rhythm instruments you already own. (Rather than buy and store Boomwhackers). These will only practice rhythm notation. However, the child in the Montessori environment will be learning pitch notation through the bells and tone bars. Unfortunately, the flashcards do not come with a CD of appropriate music. It is actually more fun to come up with your own because you can follow the interests of the children. My boys have been obsessed with Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" for months. The 4/4 example above could be played along with many of the dances, especially the "March." It could just as easily be played along with the theme from "Thomas the Tank Engine." The 3/4 example could be played along with "America"/"God Save the Queen" or "Carol of the Bells."
I strongly believe that children should be playing real music on instruments at every age. In a traditional school, I would recommend that Kindergartener's begin on the rhythm instruments. Boomwhackers and/or bells can added in first grade. Those things will keep the children very busy until recorders are added in 3rd or 4th grade. It is great if the the children can play recorders for a full two years before the band program starts at their school. (In two years the students can learn to play about 15 notes on the recorder, in multiple parts, and on real music such as Bach duets. I find it terribly sad that most school programs only teach five notes on recorder, do-sol, and some only THREE, do-mi.) A good African drumming program is a great addition in the middle-school years.
All of this, is in addition to singing and music appreciation. I write a lot about the instruments because I think many people do the singing and don't do much with the instruments. Not every child likes to sing, particularly boys in the middle school years, and I think it important to provide a rich instrumental experience to help reach those children. I probably won't post much about the singing, but I will about the music appreciation.
If you are looking for the rest of my series on Montessori Music, there is a tab at the top of my blog under the header, or they can be found here!
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